Former England captain Andrew Strauss labelled retiring opener Alastair Cook as England’s “greatest ever player”.
Cook, England’s all-time record run-scorer, walked out to a guard of honour from the Indian team members after being presented with a commemorative cap by Strauss efore play started.
A video produced by the Professional Cricketers’ Association, featuring messages from many of the 74 players who have played with Cook , was shown to the batsman on Thursday.
“It’s incredibly humbling watching all those messages,” said Cook. “Not that I am wishing this week away but once it is out of the way and the dust has settled and life has moved on I think it will be a great watch, just to appreciate how many people I have played Test cricket with and how special everything has been.”
Cook came into the final Test having scored 12,254 Test runs at an average of 44.88 with 32 hundreds. He made 71 on the first day at The Oval.
Strauss told Sky Sports: “That average, that consistency, the number of times he’s passed fifty and obviously the hundreds and the match-winning hundreds he’s got, all combine to make him England’s greatest player ever in my opinion.”
Virat Kohli added: “We have seen too much of him sometimes. He has been a great player for England. What he has done as an opener has been outstanding and he will go down as one of the greatest openers to have played the game.”
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1.45pm – England win toss and bat against India in fifth Test at The Oval
England captain Joe Root won the toss and elected to bat in the fifth and final Test against India at The Oval on Friday.
That meant Alastair Cook, in what was the opening batsman’s 161st and final Test appearance before his international retirement, would be straight into the action.
Former England captain Cook, England’s record Test run-scorer, was presented with a commemorative cap by Andrew Strauss, his predecessor as Test skipper, before play started.
England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Colin Graves and Strauss, his former opening partner oversaw the presentation ceremony.
ECB director Strauss addressed the England team before handing Cook a cap numbered 161 to mark the final international match of the 33-year-old Essex left-hander’s 12-year international career.
England had announced on Thursday they would be unchanged in personnel from the side that won by 60 runs at Southampton on Monday to take an unassailable 3-1 lead in this five-match series.
But they had also confirmed that Jonny Bairstow would resume as wicket-keeper for this match after breaking a finger behind the stumps during the third Test at Trent Bridge.
India, the world’s top-ranked Test side, made two changes, with Ravindra Jadeja replacing unfit fellow spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and middle-order batsman Hanuma Vihari given a Test debut after the tourists dropped all-rounder Hardik Pandya.
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Cook, about to call time on his own record-breaking career after his 161st Test at the Oval this week, admits the breakdown of relations between Pietersen and England went on to have a detrimental effect on his own batting.
Cook was captain in 2014 when Pietersen was sacked after a miserably unsuccessful and acrimonious Ashes winter.
However, Root said that since the veteran opener has already made up his decision, there was no point trying to change his mind.
“I was a little bit surprised but he was adamant in his decision. You could see in his face that this is what he wanted. There was no point in me trying to talk him round,” Root said.
Cook was presented with a commemorative cap by Andrew Strauss and Colin Graves before his final Test. He made 71 in the first innings on Friday.
Watch the full video below.